When a Catholic priest urges parishioners to pack heat and asks a woman afraid of guns, "Well, how do you feel about rape?" it's probably no surprise when he makes the front page.
Such is the case with the Rev. Edward Fride, a Michigan clergyman featured on Page 1 of the Detroit Free Press the last two days:
The lede on the Detroit newspaper's original story:
An Ann Arbor Catholic priest has urged his parishioners to arm themselves and attend classes at Christ the King parish to earn a concealed pistol license (CPL).
In a letter sent to Christ the King parishioners recently, the Rev. Edward Fride explained why he believed it was necessary to get concealed pistol licenses because of recent crime in the area. During a Palm Sunday mass last month, Fride announced that the parish would be holding the CPL class.
When some parishioners questioned the decision, Fride sent out a pro-gun letter titled "We're not in Mayberry Anymore, Toto" – a reference to the 1960s-era Andy Griffith Show and its portrayal of a fictional North Carolina town, as well as Dorothy's dog from the Wizard of Oz.
"It is very common for Christians to simply assume that they live in Mayberry, trusting that because they know the Lord Jesus, everything will always be fine and nothing bad can happen to them and their families," Fride wrote.
"How to balance faith, reality, prudence, and trust is one of those critical questions that we struggle with all our lives. Pretending we are in Mayberry, while we are clearly not, can have very negative consequences for ourselves and those we love, especially those we have a responsibility to protect. If we are not in Mayberry, is there a real threat?"
News of the gun classes did not please Fride's bishop:
Guns and gun lessons do not belong in a Catholic church, Lansing Catholic Bishop Earl Boyea stressed in a statement after they learned about Fride's letter from the Free Press.
Boyea "has never given permission for anyone to carry a concealed weapon in a church or school in the Diocese of Lansing," said a statement released by Diebold.
"Additionally, Bishop Boyea further states that Concealed Pistol License classes are inappropriate activities to be held on Church property," wrote Diebold.
Diebold said the Lansing diocese's ban on weapons on church makes them "gun-free zones" and extends to those who want to practice "open carry" of weapons in full view. He added that public or professional security "provide for public safety on church property."
In a follow-up story today, the Free Press notes that the priest has backtracked on the gun training:
The Rev. Edward Fride said he'll abide by the directive of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea, who oversees the parish, and who said Monday such classes are not appropriate for church property.
"As our Bishop, he is responsible for setting policy for our parishes and he has decided and publicly stated that CPL (concealed pistol license) classes are not appropriate on Church property," Fride wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. "That is his call to make and we will obviously follow his policy on this and on all decisions he makes as he shepherds this Diocese. No parish is an island unto itself and no priest operates on his own. I am his priest and I will continue to serve him to the best of my ability."
Overall, the Free Press has done a nice job of presenting the basic facts of Fride's letter and Boyea's response.
The newspaper printed the entire text of the letter online:
But the Free Press' coverage so far will disappoint anyone hoping for a serious, meaty exploration of Catholics and guns.
The Detroit paper provides no context on how unusual — or not — it is for churches to offer concealed-carry classes.
Nor does the Free Press offer any insight on Catholic teachings on gun ownership and self-defense (hat tip to Deacon's Bench blogger Greg Kandra for the preceding link).
You may recall that last September, we posted on a Religion Newswriters Association discussion of God and guns:
In the comments section of that post, a Catholic group that promotes self-defense through gun ownership was mentioned.
Alas, the Free Press sticks to the gee-whiz surface of this story — an approach that makes for easy headlines but pretty mediocre journalism.
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